HOW TO: Book Top DJs

Booking the right DJ for your venue, and more importantly, for your patrons, can make you more money. It’s that simple. What isn’t quite so simple is the process club owners go through to secure the best talent available.

In the DJ world, there are major names out there that everyone knows; and, for the most part, those names are universally working and often impossible to book. However, there is a deep pool of talent in this segment of the industry, and it is very possible to find the right DJ for you. Networking events like The Groove Cruise (, for example, offer bar and club owners the opportunity to not only party with some of their favorite DJs, but also discover hungry, unheralded talents as well.

“After the last Groove Cruise, one DJ from Detroit got gigs in Atlanta, Boston, New York and Chicago,” says Groove Cruise founder and President of Whet Travel, Jason Beukema. “He got booked in five or six cities he’d never played, all within a month of the cruise. We have a large network of affiliates around the country—over 600 of them—so when they come on the cruise and the DJs are good, they can walk away with bookings.”

Likewise, club owners can walk away with bookings as well. The next step in this all-important process is negotiating and working with the talent you bring in.
“Owners need to know that the DJ will bring in a crowd by being known in an area, so you can make a lot of money at the bar,” says international club DJ and producer Robbie Rivera. “Do your research before booking a DJ, and don’t be guided just by the ‘Top 100’ DJ polls.”

Rivera released his hotly anticipated full-length studio album, Closer to the Sun (Ultra Records) in North America this past November. A master at crafting sultry sensations and rhythmic alchemy as the force behind the wildly popular Juicy Parties, Rivera’s dance floor sensibilities never leave him, even when in the studio. We spoke with Rivera about what would draw a powerhouse act such as him to play a particular venue, and what would turn him off.

BBM: What draws you to consider spinning at a particular venue? Reputation? Average
clientele? Size? Equipment?

Robbie Rivera: Size is important, yes. So is lighting and of course, sound. The reputation of a venue and promoter is important. Everything you mentioned is true. All of these are important factors when I book with a venue.

BBM: What would deter you?

Rivera: I don’t like clubs that are very bright with a lot of light, or one where the booth is right in people’s faces. I don’t mind being on the same level as the dance floor, or up on a stage, but if it’s only a little bit elevated, I feel stupid. I want to be on top of a stage or on the same level. You feel awkward when it’s just a tiny stage.

BBM: How should club owners approach talent?

Rivera: Promoters and venues should approach talent through our agents. When I get a request for a booking from someone on Facebook, I don’t that it seriously.

BBM: What should they avoid doing throughout negotiations?

Rivera: Promoters and venue owners should avoid speaking like they know what they’re talking about if they don’t. They should do their research. If you’re going to book Roger Sanchez, he’s been a Top 50 DJ in the world and he’s been around for years, but do your research anyway! It’s extremely easy to go to an artist’s homepage, look at how many fans they have, read the DJ’s profile, etc. That says a lot.

BBM: Is there a source that club owners can
utilize to find the best talent available?

Rivera: From there, write down some DJ names, Google them, look on their Facebook pages and research them. Listen to their music on iTunes and listen to their radio shows or podcasts to get more familiar with their sound.

BBM: What are some of the most common mistakes owners make when booking talent?  

Rivera: They do this all the time: They’ll say, “I’m going to book you on a Friday night,” when it’s a night that sucks and is empty. Then they say, “We should’ve brought you on Saturday night when it’s busy!” They rely on the DJ to fill the place when it’s dead, instead of when it’s busy and people will remember the experience! That happens a lot.

BBM: Does the DJ community talk about which club owners are good to work with and which are not?

Rivera: Big time, yeah! We all know which club owners are terrible and which are special. There’s a club owner who is a lawyer, and he takes all the contracts from all the DJs and weeds through the fine print and makes stupid changes. For example, when I book a DJ for Juicy Beach, the rider says that the artist has to have a dressing room made available. But you can’t do that at Juicy Beach at Nikki Beach Club, which is literally on the beach in Miami!

BBM: Equipment-wise, what does a club owner have to provide, at a minimum, for a good DJ to consider spinning at their club?

Rivera: The most important thing is, sound-wise, the room has to have a lot of bottom. The sound system really has to shake the room. We’re talking loud and clear sound. Funktion One is the sound system most popular worldwide. It gives you a deep bass bottom and clear highs. You can be on the floor and speak to someone and still have the bass move you. In the booth, you need to have proper monitors; nothing by Mackie, nothing too high. With the DJ stand, you should have big, rubber mats that are comfortable for the DJ to stand on for six hours. They only have those in certain clubs. If you really want to have a great DJ, have a private bathroom in the booth! The only club that had a bathroom in the booth was Sound Factory.

BBM: What are some of the hot new trends in the DJ community that club owners should know about and embrace?

Rivera: This one is a must: You have to invest in LED walls. They’re the next big thing. Any club that has LEDs behind the DJ booth that shows off the DJ’s logo really big will make the DJ really happy. You will really shock customers and it looks awesome, especially if it is high-definition.

BBM: What does a top-notch DJ provide a club owner that he or she simply can’t get from other forms of entertainent?

Rivera: Owners have got to remember that when you bring in top DJ talent, you’re bringing a party vibe with him and that his work is recognized all over the world. As with Tiesto, you know he’s going to play a certain progressive trance sound. If you bring Roger Sanchez or myself, it’s going to be more of a house vibe. The DJ is bringing his brand new music and all of his knowledge. He really knows how to entertain a crowd, and he’s bringing his brand.   

With another season wrapped as resident DJ of JUICY at Ibiza’s Privilege, Rivera launched his Closer to the Sun North American Tour on October 30th in New York and hit all major markets—including a 10,000-person event at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico—before culminating in a debauched New Year’s Eve event at Michael Ault’s Gryphon club in Ft. Lauderdale.